Plaid Cymru councillor removed from planning meeting by legal officer
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A Plaid Cymru councillor was removed from a planning meeting after claiming relocating Marks and Spencer from Llandudno town centre could be the “last nail in the coffin” of his family’s business.
Cllr Trystan Lewis was told by the council’s legal officer Rhun ap Gareth that he should be “declaring an interest”, and that he should leave the virtual meeting following his comments.
Marks and Spencer wanted to increase the amount of space it could use to sell food on the ground floor of the recently vacated former Debenhams store on Parc Llandudno.
It comes after it announced it would take over the unit at Parc Llandudno and vacate its remaining store on Mostyn Street.
Marks and Spencer had already closed its satellite clothing store in the town in 2018.
The application sought to allow the retailer to use up to 41% of the ground floor area of the new premises for selling its food products, siting an instore café, coffee bar, takeaway and/or restaurant area. Officers recommended approval of the change.
A section 106 agreement had limited the floorspace which could be used for food retail at the former Debenhams site to 10%.
Committee member Cllr Chris Cater welcomed the move by Marks and Spencer to the former Debenhams site, and hoped the company would adapt to the “new world we’ll be living in post Covid”.
However Cllr Trystan Lewis said: “I don’t think I as a little councillor am going to be able to stop the massive train.
“We have a little business as a family in Llandudno and it’s another kind of problem for us, if not the last nail in the coffin.
“Because after Marks leaves Llandudno it will be a ghost town. If you go to Llanelli, Parc Trostre has killed Llanelli.
“There are complete streets that don’t have any kind of shops on them – just places boarded up.
“Nothing has come to Marks men’s store, which was the other site at St John’s, and believe me that other Marks will either be a shop or another building which will be sold up.
“How many people are attracted to the town because of Marks? And when Marks left Rhyl it had a terrible effect on the town.
“The same thing is going to happen in Llandudno – it’s going to kill the middle of town. The centre of town will see more and more shops sold up.
“I think it’s a great nail in the coffin of Llandudno.”
The council’s legal officer Rhun ap Gareth stepped in after Cllr Lewis’s contribution.
He said: “Obviously you are of the opinion this is going to affect your business. On that basis I think I have to let you know you should be declaring an interest on this item and leaving the meeting.
“It’s just because you directly said moving the shop is going to affect your business.
“I don’t think I have a choice really, apart from counselling you to declare an interest.”
With that Cllr Lewis was removed to the waiting room for the rest of the virtual meeting.
Cllr Andrew Hinchliff said government should withdraw business rates within town centres and charge full business rates for out of town stores an retain parks to encourage business on high streets.
Councillors voted 8-0, with three abstentions to approve the proposal.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.
Just for the record, an interest declared does not mean that person must leave the meeting, simply play no further part.
Whatever Councillor Lewis’ motives, he has hit the nail firmly on the head – village and town centres are dying and councils everywhere really need to face up to this.
Unless an exemption is sought in advance of the meeting to allow a member with a personal and/or prejudicial interest to remain (eg to speak but not vote), the Legal Officer was completely correct.
What Trystan Lewis said is completely true .These shopping parks on the edge of Towns have completely ruined the high street.Wrexham town centre is a prime example of this and with the recent closure of Debenhams stores Bangor will be affected too This is going to make the town centres look run down and have a negative impact .Over the border in Chester , Debenhams ( Browns of Chester) has just closed and will leave a huge void in that part of the main Street and I fear it will never recover and Chester will never be the same again… Read more »